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How many tools does your construction business need?

How to do more with less in 2019

tools for your tool park

Reducing your tool park to increase productivity feels like a counterintuitive concept - after all, surely if you have more tools available, workers will never find themselves without the appropriate tools to do the job?

While this appears to be a logical stance, construction businesses with large tool parks are often far less efficient then those who have a leaner, well-managed stock. Large tool parks can lead to increased waste, downtime, and cost, having the opposite effect on construction site productivity than intended.

The concept of ‘lean thinking’

The idea of doing more with less in business is linked to ‘lean thinking’ - a methodology focused on improving organisation and value through the elimination of waste. Since the term was coined in 1996 from the researchers James P. Womack’s and Daniel T. Jones’ study of the famous Toyota supply chain, the concept of ‘lean’ has evolved across several different approaches to improving business processes. 

Across these different variations, lean thinking approaches tend to follow seven core principles: 

  • Optimise the whole: This requires businesses to understand how the separate elements of their organisation integrate, and how value flows throughout. In other words, efficiency and productivity is something that needs to be considered across all aspects of the business. 
  • Eliminate waste: In lean thinking, waste isn’t necessarily overspend, but refers to something that does not add value to the customer. This can be functions, processes or assets - anything where money is being invested with little return. 
  • Create knowledge: When businesses start out, only a few people understand how everything works. As a business grows, this knowledge needs to be transferred across the company through sharing, training, and documented processes. 
  • Build quality into the system: This principle is all about standardising and automating processes in order to make the business as error-proof as possible. By having a clear way of operating and automating processes where possible, human error is reduced and efficiency increased
  • Deliver fast by managing flow: When a road is jammed with traffic, cars can’t move and nobody gets anywhere - if the road is half full, however, traffic flows easily. In terms of lean thinking, by reducing the burden on staff to work at capacity, workers can be more efficient and companies can deliver value to customers quickly.
  • Defer commitment: This principle is easy to misinterpret, as it requires decisions to be made at the last responsible moment. As opposed to last minute thinking, this concept is designed to allow businesses to make decisions based on what their customers actually want.
  • Respect people: Lean environments need happy, dedicated staff to ensure growth and productivity throughout the business. At a fundamental level, this means respecting your staff and creating environments where they can work comfortably. 

 

lean thinking

To achieve a truly ‘lean’ business in the strictest sense of the term, these principles need to be followed and applied across operations. If this is something you are hoping to achieve, it can’t be done overnight - lean working requires a long-term cultural change, which takes considerable time and investment to achieve. However, the benefits of lean working can have a significant impact on growth and profit on the bottom line. 

In terms of construction site optimisation, some of these principles can also help us think about how to increase efficiency through reorganising processes and reducing excess assets.

Why having an excess of tools creates inefficiency

There are a number of issues associated with having an overstock of assets in your tool park. 

Firstly, a large number of tools requires more time and money invested in maintenance, with larger stocks having to be managed more carefully. If you have a number of the same item, it’s likely that certain tools are rarely being used. From a lean thinking standpoint, overstock is considered to be waste - as there is little return on investment for you or your customers. 

When considering waste, it’s important to differentiate between a large tool park that has accumulated  over time and one that has been created through a company investing considerable upfront capital. For the latter, when investing in new tools, it’s important to consider the value you are getting from each asset in terms of the frequency of use. 

For tool parks that have been built up over time, overstock often occurs when new tools are added, and existing assets are not removed from the stock. Having duplicates can cause problems with keeping track of what needs to be repaired and when, increasing the investment needed in maintenance. If a company is using a manual asset management system, such as an Excel spreadsheet, this may be particularly difficult to track. 

By not having a clear picture of the condition of tools, workers often end up equipped with inefficient tools in need of maintenance, reducing productivity and increasing downtime - as well as the risk of accidents. 

The benefits of a lean tool park

Through reducing the amount of tools in your tool park, you can increase construction site productivity in a number of ways. For workers, having a reduced selection of tools allows easier access to the specific equipment they need for the job, with less time spent searching through old or faulty tools. 

In terms of expense, a reduced tool park also cuts down cost and time spent on procurement, maintenance and repair, reducing overspend and staff hours spent checking stock. It also allows for tool parks to be organised in a more efficient way - by construction teams, for example - creating increased time and financial savings. 

From an administrative standpoint, a reduced tool park makes the auditing process shorter and more efficient, while also allowing for quicker decision-making in terms of procurement and tool rentals. 

A leaner tool park improves efficiency through better organisation, helping to reduce time and financial investment, as well as the stress associated with managing a large, dispersed stock of assets across your business. 

At Hilti, our productivity experts have helped thousands of Hilti customers to streamline their tool parks and optimise the way their assets are managed. By identifying the areas of waste in your business, and the hidden costs throughout your tool park, we can help you to make changes that will improve productivity while reducing your costs.

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